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VNGINRING

FACTS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS


Department Editor: Kate Torzewski
Avoiding
Seal Failure
S
eals are assemblies of elements that prevent
the passage af a solid, liquid, gas or vapor
from one system to another. When a seal
allows leakage of material, failure has occurred.
This guide provides an overview of common seal
types and a discussion of seal failure to aid in
choosing the most effective seal and avoiding
future failure.
SE AL TY P E S
S eals types can be classified within two broad
categories: static and dynamic. S tatic seals hove
no relative motion between mating surfaces, while
dynamic seals do have relative motion between
a moving surface and a stationary surface. S eals
do not have to fit into one category or the other;
rather, seal types can fall anywhere on a spectrum
between static and dynamic, and few seals are
strictly one type or the other. Table 1 describes the
applications and requirements of several common
seal types.
SE AL FAIL U RE
S eal failure is caused by a wide variety of circumstances, including improper in-
stallation and environmental factors such as temperature, pressure, fluid incompat-
ibilities, time and human factors.
Most causes of failure can be described as mechanical difficulties or system
operations problems. Examples of mechanical difficulties include strain on the
seal face caused by improper installation and vibration caused by improper net
positive suction head. Meanwhile, system operating problems can include condi-
tions that are outside of a pump's best performance envelope, such as upsets, dry
running, and pressure or temperature fluctuations. Changes in the fluid being pro-
cessed can cause problems as well, especially with fluids that flash or carbonize.
Common visual indicators of failure include short cuts, V-shaped notches in the
seal, skinned surface in localized areas, or thin, peeled-away area on the seal.
Table 2 describes causes of some of the most prevalent types of seal failure with
recommended methods of dction.
In some cases, the cause of failure may be difficult to determine due to the com-
plexity of the seal construction. These unique failure modes can result in flaking or
peeling of the seal face, corrosion, flaking or pitting of the carbon faces, degrada-
tion of the elastomer energizer seals, and spring or bellows breakage. It is likely
that these rapid degradations are a result of contamination, which can be avoided
with careful installation or using pre-assembled, cartridge-type mechanical seals.
References
1. Ashby, D. M. Diagnos-
ing Common Causes oF
S ealing Failure, Chem.
Eng . June 2005, pp.
41-45,
2. Netzel, J., Volden,
D., Crane, J. S uitable
S eals Lower the Cost
of Ownership, Chem.
Eng . December 1998,
pp. 92-96.
TABLE 1. COMP ARISON OF OOMMON SEALTYPES
Type
O-ring
T-seal
U -packing
V-packIng
Cup-type pack-
ing
Flat gasket
Compression or
jam packing
Applications
Static
X
X

X
X
Dynamic
X
X
X
X
X

X
P eriodic
Adjustment
Required?
No
No
No
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
iVIoving
triction
Medium
Medium
Low
Medium
Medium

Higii
Tolerances
required (mov-
ing seais)
Ciose
Fairiy close
Ciose
Fairiy close
Ciose

Fairiy close
Giand
adapters
required?
No
No
No
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Space
require-
ments
Smali
Smali
Smaii
Smaii
Medium
L arqe
L arge
TABLE 2.SOL U TIONSTO COMMON CAUSES OF SEAL FAILURE
Failure type
Compression
set
Nibbling and
extrusion
Spirai faiiure
Explosive
decompres-
sion
Wear
Detinitian
A lost of resiliency caused by the
failure of a seal to rebound after It has
been deformed for some period of
tIme.The seal wiii exhibit a flattened
surface corresponding to the contours
of the mating hardware
A seai starts to appear to be torn
away in little pieces until it ioses its
overaii shape and tlows into whatever
void area is avaiiabie
A seai roiis within its giand, resuiting
in cuts or marks that spirai around the
circumference of the seal
Seal exhibits blisters, fissure, pock
marks or pits, both externaiiy and
internaliy
Smooth burnishing of a sealing
surface
Causes
Exposure to excessive tempera-
ture or Incompatible fluids
Excessive deformation of the
elastomer at instaiiation
An incompletely vuicanized seai
Excessive clearance gaps
improper seal material
Excessive volume-to-void ratio
inconsistent clearance gaps
Applications where a seal is
used in a siow, reciprocating
fashion
irreguiar surface over the mating
parts causing the seal to grip to
certain contact points
Gas entrapment within the
elastomer during high-pres-
sure cycling, followed by rapid
depressurizatlon
Relative motion of the seai
against the mating surface
Solutions
Choose proper deflection for the seai
Choose appropriate eiastomer mate-
riai for the application in terms of
thermai stability and compression set
resistance
increase bulk hardness of the sealing
element
Decrease clearance gaps
Redesign voiume-to-void ratio
Add anti-extrusion devices
Use an elastomer with a higher buik
hardness
For male-type installation. Increase the
installed stretch on the seal
Specify a smoother, more uniform fin-
ish on mating hardware
Change the type of seal to a iip-type
contiguration
Use an eiastomer material that is more
resilient to explosive decompression
Use polymeric or metal seals if
Opossibie
Use a harder material
Use a poiymeric solution